JOSE RIZAL UNIVER­SITY HEAVY BOMBERS

DE­SPITE HOLD­ING ITS OWN AGAINST LOWER-TIER AND MID­DLE-OF-THE-ROAD TEAMS, THE JOSE RIZAL UNIVER­SITY HEAVY BOMBERS FAILED TO DET­O­NATE AGAINST THE TWO CHAM­PI­ONSHIP PRO­TAG­O­NISTS, SAN BEDA AND SAN SE­BAS­TIAN, IN SEA­SON 86. WITH ONLY A HAND­FUL OF PLAY­ERS RE­TURN

Rebound Magazine - - NCAA PREVIEW - by Chris­tian D. Soler

Ray­con Kabigt­ing was one of the league’s most im­proved play­ers from 2010, up­ping his scor­ing av­er­age by more than seven points and de­vel­op­ing into a more-than-de­cent mid-range shooter. His three-point shoot­ing is still a bit spotty (25 per­cent), but sec­ond-year head coach Vergel Me­ne­ses has given him all the con­fi­dence he needs to flour­ish on his fi­nal year. Alex Al­mario is an­other up-and-com­ing Bomber who can drive or pull-up for a jumper. What gives him the edge in the play­mak­ing depth chart, how­ever, is his de­fense.

The re­moval of big man Joe Etame from the team, cou­pled with the grad­u­a­tion of Marvin Hayes, has opened the door for other big men to emerge. John Lopez (6.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 48 FG%) had a break­out cam­paign last year and will serve as JRU’s pri­mary weapon down low. Rookie John Vil­lar­ias has good size and length at the shoot­ing guard spot and can con­trib­ute of­fen­sively. 6’6” John Mon­temayor is still a bit of an enigma af­ter rid­ing the bench for much of his ca­reer but will surely see more ac­tion in 2011.

Bench

Nate Matute (9.1 PPG, 33.7 3PT%) took his game to a higher level last year and came out of nowhere to lead his team in scor­ing, while for­ward Jeck­ster Apinan is no longer just a sit­u­a­tional, one-on-one threat. He can now out­work op­pos­ing combo for­wards. Me­ne­ses says Matute will still come off the bench since that’s “where he’s more com­fort­able” and lead a cast of rook­ies that’ll make up the sec­ond unit. 2010 NCAA Ju­niors Myth­i­cal Five se­lec­tion Cris de la Paz should add ath­leti­cism

and strength to the two and three spots. New re­cruits Philip Pa­ni­amo­gan and Rom­nick Men­doza are gutsy play­mak­ers who’ll be use­ful when press­ing smaller point guards.

Me­ne­ses ad­mits that ad­just­ing to life with­out Etame will pose quite a chal­lenge, so there’s some weight on the shoul­ders of the back-up front­line. For­mer Fa­tima star Ralph Mon­serat is a lanky but phys­i­cal pres­ence who can mix it up with guys one or two inches taller. Ron­nel Carampil and Jay-ar Gaco are a bit un­der­sized es­pe­cially for the five spot, but are nonethe­less proven bangers and re­li­able re­bound­ers. This group, along with Mon­temayor, will play cen­ter by com­mit­tee.

Coach­ing

Un­der the tute­lage of cham­pion tac­ti­cian Der­ick Pu­maren, Me­ne­ses has grad­u­ally set­tled into his role. “I’m more com­fort­able now. I’m get­ting used to it,” he says in Ta­ga­log while in­sist­ing that he has to be strict with his play­ers too many times more than to his lik­ing. “I’m not like that off the court but have to be be­cause I’m the coach.”

Tak­ing the cue from his men­tor, the 42year-old Bu­lak­enyo con­tin­ues to preach a de­fen­sive-minded and work­man­like ap­proach to the game. “What we lack in skill or height, we try to make up for with speed and hard work. We’re not the most tal­ented team,” he ex­plains. True enough, the Heavy Bombers led the league in sec­ond-chance points and gave up the sec­ond-least num­ber of re­bounds a con­test.

In­tan­gi­bles

JRU served up a Jekyll and Hyde per­for­mance in 2010, go­ing a per­fect 10-0 against non-steplad­der squads, sweep­ing 4th seed Mapúa, 3-0 but los­ing all five games to San Beda and San Se­bas­tian by an av­er­age mar­gin of 15 points. The Heavy Bombers had all the right moves in all the right places in games with the lesser lights, but barely put up a fight on the big stage.

Hayes’ de­par­ture, along with the dis­missals of Etame and coun­try­man John Nchotu Njei – un­de­ni­ably a vo­cal pres­ence – could po­ten­tially do more harm than good in pres­sure-packed games. It be­comes more im­per­a­tive for Me­ne­ses to find a leader who can steady all nerves when push comes to shove. The time has come for Al­mario, Lopez and Matute to take over.

Out­look

JRU’s golden gen­er­a­tion may have come and gone, but it still has the po­ten­tial to pull the rug from un­der top-notch op­po­si­tion. The Bombers are still one of the more dan­ger­ous NCAA squads.

C PF SF SG PG John Mon­temayor John Lopez John Vil­lar­ias Ray­con Kabigt­ing Alex Al­mario

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